Elizabeth Kubler-Ross became quite famous with her work on death and dying. As a culture we don't do so well with it. Despite the fact that every dies, everyone has died since the beginning of time we still harbor some pretty freaky beliefs about it. For example when my pastor got cancer his church was praying for him as if the disease was a sin. They pointed out example after example from the bible of people who were miraculously healed. The whole Assembly seemed to be united in their faith that all he needed was enough people gathered in the name of Jesus, in order to be healed. I pointed out that even Lazarus, last time I checked, isn't walking the Earth today. What about John the Baptist? Surely he was no sinner, having been the first to recognize his cousin as the Son of God, and John died. Not only did John die, he died a horrible death.
My pastor did eventually die, from cancer. As described in her book on Death and Dying, the church body went through the stages of mourning. Not in this order consistently, they cycled and recycled through grief, denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance over a manner of months. Some people came too sooner than others. Some of course left the church, unable to accept the out come. The memorial was set to be a celebration of life in lieu of a funeral.
When my mother died, we had a funeral, where my brother spoke a moving eulogy. Not every one attending. We also had an open house memorial service which more people attended. The funeral it self helped many people accept the reality of her death as they were able to view the body. In his kind eulogy my bother remembered wonderful good aspects of my mother. He is a fine public speaker. The memorial service had a different purpose. IT wasn't so much about making the death concrete, it was about remembering.
Many people came up to me and my family members to tell me their story about my mother, to unburden their memories in one repository. When my friend Dina passed away her kids took the process one step further and in lieu of a memorial made a celebration of life. They hired a jazz band Dina would have enjoyed and in lieu of a eulogy invited us to share our favorite Dina story. Gathered together that day were over 500 people from all aspects of Dina's life: her work, her clients, her friends and family. How wonderful it was to hear about a side to her we hadn't been aware of.
When my friend Dean passed away the vibe was very
different. His two grown daughter came
from out of town and opened his house up as an "everything must go" yard
sale. When they were done the house was
empty. People even purchased the half
empty comet cleanser from under the sink.
Life ends and people react differently.
Dean's neighbor was horrified by what the daughters did. You can't blame them for not wanting to lug
his stuff back to Alaska with them. Cash
is easier to carry.His death was a transition. Everything changes whether we have a yard sale or a jazz band, our lives are never the same again.